Fact Checked by

Randall Evans, MS, RDN, LD

8 Energy-Boosting Coffee Alternatives

Looking for a coffee substitute that will keep you alert and awake? Here are some of the most interesting and noteworthy alternative energy boosters.


Coffee doesn’t have to be the only weapon in your arsenal if you’re seeking a quick energy boost. Alternatives include everything from breathwork to essential oils.

If you think that drinking cup after cup of coffee is the fix for all your low energy moments, think again. There are alternatives to coffee.

Coffee is a great source of caffeine for that jolt. but there are only so many servings you can have a day for your health. And if you drink too late at night, you might be up for hours.

Luckily, there are several natural ways to boost energy, all backed by science! Here are a few handy habits that serve as coffee alternatives to keep in mind when you’ve hit that slump or are feeling a bit sluggish.

Table of Contents
A High-Protein Breakfast
Bee Pollen
Essential Oils
Vitamin D
Doing a HIIT Class


The power of breath is extremely important for promoting energy, as it provides more fresh oxygen into your lungs to wake you up. Beyond your basic biology, breath work can improve your focus, clarity and bring about mindfulness to yourself and your work.

Research shows that “slow-breathing,” where you focus on your breath and practice lengthening your inhales and exhales can help the body produce more energy.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Research has also shown that slow-breathing can “increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion,” as shown in the abstract.

breathwork as an alternative to coffee

What’s more, you can also use breathwork for meditation, which is known to boost energy levels and offer a renewed sense of clarity. Meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind too—so you will not only feel more mentally alert in the moment but you’ll also have greater cognition, which can impact your health long-term.

Try ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, or use an app that has breathing exercises led by experts. You can do them anywhere, anytime.

A quick method you can practice is the Navy SEALs “box breathing technique”.

  1. Sitting comfortably close your eyes and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds letting the air fill your lower diaphragm (belly area).
  2. Hold the breath for 4 seconds.
  3. Exhale slowly out of your nose for 4 seconds.
  4. After your exhale hold the breath for another 4 seconds and repeat.

After practicing this method for as little as 5 minutes, you’ll find you’re much calmer, focused and energized.

A High-Protein Breakfast

A high protein meal or snack can promote higher energy levels, but a prime time to eat protein is bright and early to kickstart your metabolism when you wake up feeling lethargic and groggy.

While not all proteins are created equal when you fuel up properly you’ll effectively wake your brain and body up and you won’t even need the coffee to wash it down.

What We Recommend:

  • A Greek yogurt with fresh berries and nuts.
  • An egg-based dish, like an omelet, frittata, or egg cups for on the go.
  • A high fiber oatmeal with nut butter for protein, as well as flaxseed or nuts.
  • Avocado spread on toast with an egg on top or sprinkle of spices, like cayenne.
  • Breakfast burrito packed with chicken, turkey sausage, or lean beef or beans.
a high protein breakfast as a coffee alternative

Avocados are high in protein and fat which help power the brain and boost energy. And eggs are total brain food. They are packed with vitamin D (go for fortified eggs that are cage-free for the most nutritional bang for your buck), which improves energy levels, and they have ample protein, which also keeps you alert and strong.

A great reason to snack on hard-boiled eggs, midday when energy is low or to wake up to an omelet or frittata.

What’s more, eggs also have choline in the yolk, which can improve cognitive thinking over time and also just keep the brain sharp.

When you are feeling worn down, the protein will boost muscle repair and recovery, and it also just keeps your metabolism running high throughout the day.

And when it comes to what you eat, your metabolism plays a key role in feeling energized. According to Heathline, science shows that a metabolic boost supports greater energy and stamina in the body and helps you get the fuel you need to perform your best.

So, instead of java, grab an egg for a snack! It’ll help you out without the caffeine and it’ll keep you full too, so you won’t feel like mindlessly eating or have hunger pains.

Bee Pollen

Weird, right?

According to studies, bee pollen can increase physical performance and metabolic burn, so it’s helpful pre-workout and post-workout (for muscle recovery too!) and also just during day when your energy is dipping.

Bee pollen is a natural honeybee product, and it can be therapeutic, according to research, when consumed as a dietary supplement since it has a host of nutrients and can improve the immune system, keeping you healthy and well.

It is worth checking with your physician for approval for use before taking to make sure it is safe for you as an individual, but most people usually respond well to it since it’s all-natural.

Bee pollen can be sprinkled over various foods, like cereals, yogurt, or oatmeal, or it can be added to homemade granola or mixed into smoothies.

There is some discussion on the ethical nature of consuming bee pollen, so if being environmentally-conscious is important to you, make sure you buy from a sustainable source.


Seems counter-intuitive right? How is spending more energy walking is going to give me more energy? But it’s true. In fact, a recent study shows that just 20 minutes of walking can be as effective as caffeine for providing energy.

Heading outdoors for a brisk walk will get your heart rate slightly higher, and can increase energy by promoting more blood flow and circulation through your body and muscles. It also offers a much-needed break from our screens. Try doing it in a scenic environment for the added benefits of decreased stress, increased creativity and happiness.

So, instead of reaching for a fourth cup, go for a walk instead to clear your mind and wake up your body.


Naps aren’t just for babies. Taking a nap can also help you wake up refreshed, so you have a greater supply of energy to tackle the next couple of hours. Yet, timing is important. You don’t want to nap too late in the evening, as it could prevent you from tiring before bed.

napping as an alternative to coffee

Make your nap around the afternoon or early evening with several hours before you’d be winding down before bed. And keep it to 15-20 minutes max for a short-term alertness and boost. Sara C. Mednick, PhD, sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life said to WedMD, “You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping.”

“You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost,” she continued.

A 20-minute power nap will have you waking up feeling refreshed and ready to get back to whatever is on your plate. And it will add up to avoid sleep deprivation in general!

Any longer and you could wake up drowsier and have a harder time falling asleep again at night, as explained by the National Sleep Foundation.

Essential Oils

Before you brush this one off, rest assured that when it comes to boosting your energy and performance essential oils don’t disappoint.

Yes, there’s also a lot of phony applications for how far the benefits of essential oils actually reach but according to Healthline, spearmint, peppermint, sweet orange, and lemon essential oils, have all been shown to prevent fatigue and increase energy in the body.

Some types of essential oils are great for giving the mind and body a rise in energy, where you might gain more mental focus and concentration or just feel more stimulated and in tune with your body.

For instance, rosemary is a good one to have on hand and you can carry the oil around with you in your bag or stash at your office desk or in the car for commutes and midday slumps.

You can drop a few droplets on your skin to let it absorb into and to smell it on your skin (try the pulse points, and breathe in deeply when smelling) or you can put a few (3-4) droplets in a diffuser with ½ cup of water to let it diffuse and fill the room and provide those energy-boosting scents and good vibes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for a healthy mind and body, yet most people don’t know how much of an impact it has on boosting energy levels and making our bodies work efficiently.

When we are deficient in vitamin D, our mitochondria, (the batteries of our cells) are left inefficient often resulting in fatigue.

While sunlight is the greatest source of vitamin D and has been proven to increase happiness, depending on where you live, it may be harder to come by getting your fill from the rays.

Luckily, if a sunny climate isn’t accessible to you, you can also get vitamin D from foods like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and cod oil or natural supplements.

For instance, taking a 1,000mg pill a day (although you can check your own levels with a doc to determine how much YOU need as an individual), can do wonders in keeping your energy higher throughout the day and decreasing fatigue, according to research.

According to Healthline, Vitamin D intake should be 400–800 IU/day, or 10–20 micrograms. However, a higher daily intake of 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) might be better to maintain optimal blood levels. And to further maintain healthy blood levels, try to get 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week.

Take a HIIT Class

Wake the body up fast and get energy with a High-Intensity Interval Training class or a few minutes of HIIT exercises. These might include burpees, squat jumps, lunges, jumping jacks, and more. Think moves that get your heart rate up and build muscle!

Why? Similar to walking, research shows that HIIT workouts and high-intensity movement can improve blood flow in the body, circulation, and general sense of wellbeing, all of which in turn can lower daily stress and create instant energy in the body upon doing it.

What’s more is that according to science, there is an after burn, so you stay higher in energy with an elevated metabolism and heart rate for a few hours afterward. So, the results last long!

woman yawning at desk


Why is my energy so low?

It can be a number of things—stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, relationship distress, dissatisfaction at work or at home, or even lack of caffeine and stimulating activities, like exercise. Meet with a doctor to determine what might be your trigger (or triggers!).

The most common causes of low energy result from sedentary lifestyle, diet and being overweight, stress, lack of sleep, poor nutritional quality and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, sleep disorders, and medication and disease, like diabetes.

Does B12 give you energy?

It can. Vitamin B12 can improve bodily function and it is a nutrient that can increase energy in the body but don’t think it will be more effective than coffee or these other habits alone. So, eat B12 rich foods as part of a healthy, energy-boosting diet for sure, but do these other hacks too! Some foods include liver, leafy greens, beef, fish, and fortified eggs, milk, and cereal products.

What foods are good for energy?

Great foods that can serve as alternatives to coffee include berries, like blueberries and blackberries, eggs, fish like salmon and tuna, whole grains, like quinoa and brown rice, fortified foods like grains and dairy, beans and legumes, dark chocolate (for antioxidants, but in moderation!), leafy greens, like spinach and kale, and nuts, like almonds and walnuts. Keep them in your meals and snacks each day!

Eating low glycemic foods could be beneficial too since they won’t spike blood sugar. Yet, some high glycemic foods are good for you, like watermelon, so don’t live your life by the glycemic index. Just keep it in mind and be smart.